City Takes Helm of Struggling Seaport Museum
SOUTH STREET SEAPORT — New York City has thrown the financially strapped South Street Seaport Museum a temporary lifeline.
Three city officials have formed a new transitional board of trustees for the museum, to lead the search for an institutional partner to keep the Hurricane Sandy-battered nonprofit afloat, the Department of Cultural Affairs announced Monday.
The decision was made “in an effort to maintain the Seaport Museum's status as a nonprofit and keep alive an organization highly valued by local community stakeholders,” said Kate Levin, the commissioner of the city's Department of Cultural Affairs, in an emailed statement.
The city’s takeover comes a few weeks after the museum’s financial anchor, the Museum of the City of New York, announced that it would not continue its partnership with the Seaport Museum, leaving the future of the floundering institution uncertain.
“During this time our hope is that a successor steward will take responsibility for the museum's mission and collection,” said Levin, adding that if no partner can be found, “the Attorney General will be consulted” on how to proceed.
The city also appointed Jonathan Boulware, the museum's longtime waterfront director, as the museum's interim president.
The museum, which was forced to close in 2010 because of financial troubles, was revived by its partnership with the Museum of the City of New York. But thanks in part to the massive financial hit the Seaport Museum took because of Hurricane Sandy damage, the City Museum said it could no longer bear the responsibility.
“Sandy ravaged our building systems and more,” Susan Henshaw Jones, director of the City Musuem, said in June. "At the same time, funding from FEMA will take years to receive.”
The museum was forced to close its Sandy-damaged 12 Fulton St. galleries on April 7 because it was unable to bankroll the historic building's expensive temporary heat and power systems, which were destroyed by the hurricane's floodwaters. Henshaw Jones previously estimated that it would take millions of dollars to permanently repair the damage.
The Seaport Museums's neighboring Bowne & Co. Stationers and Bowne Printers, a recreation of a 19th-century printing shop at 209-211 Water St., remains open.
The museum's 1885 schooner Pioneer is also continuing its harbor sails this season.